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Mar 24, 2012

Pinterest + Facebook = Successful Social Commerce?

With the introduction of the Facebook Timeline for Business, retailers have a great opportunity to improve their profile pages and interact with their followers.

But is Facebook an effective platform for business? 
According to a Bloomberg report from last month, major retailers including Gamestop, J.C. Penney and Nordstrom have all shut down their Facebook storefronts recently. There have been numerous discussions on why these stores weren’t successful, but one of the best explanations on why these stores have failed comes from Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru:

“There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop,” Mulpuru said in a telephone interview. “But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.

Moving forward, I feel that the success of mobile commerce will hinge on the ability for content to be shared with connections. Pinterest, the darling social network of the moment, has shown that it’s been able to exceptionally refer traffic -- with 3.6% of the web’s referral traffic coming from the social-pinning site, a large increase from 0.17% in July last year. Facebook, comparatively, referred 26.4% of traffic in January--but with over 50 times the number of registered users as Pinterest.

So, could Facebook learn a thing or two from Pinterest to make its already strong referral network even better? I think it can, and taking a few tricks from Pinterest is one way I think that world’s largest social network could revamp it’s social commerce model.

There are three main things I think Facebook would need to do to emulate the “Pinterest-model” of referral traffic for its content:

1. Facebook would need a feature similar to Pinterest’s “pinning.” With pins, Pinterest users can easily categorize and collect content for later viewing. In doing so, others with similar interests can view this content. Facebook could emulate this with a sort of “tagging” feature.

2. Facebook would also need to promote this button on the Web, similar to what Pinterest has done with its “Pin” button. This way, as users find content across the web they would like to share, they could automatically “tag it” to the appropriate categories and share it with their Facebook connections who follow these categories.

3. Finally, Facebook would need to have a function similar to “lists” on the users’ main feed. These “categories” would be where users tag content, and could be anything from tech items to kitchen ideas. Users would have the option of enabling these category posts to appear in their news feeds, much as content does today.

I see this type of model helping Facebook’s social commerce by reducing the need for users to visit a brand’s page (to be directed to its website), and by encouraging users to “sell” to each other -- rather than have brands selling directly to users. That’s what social networks are best at -- connecting users and allowing them to share content that makes them happy.


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